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On Loss and Yard Sales

Amie Williams , 

by Amie Williams, Global Girl Media

Today, I want to write about loss. I have been thinking a lot about this, since GlobalGirl had its first official yard sale recently, and I parted with a lot of little detritus from my past...things I once cherished that now seemed empty of their meaning, or personal association: a cigar-smoking female figurine from Cuba, a box full of old sound cables, some Howlin' Wolf CDS, and lots, lots, lots of books. I LOVE books. How does this happen? How does a person we love with abandon, suddenly seem so distant, or a passion say, for date squares suddenly replace your craving for brownies instead? Here's a great date square recipe, by the way.

As I write this, four people have just been shot and killed about 5 miles from where I live on the campus of Santa Monica College, by a lone gunman. One woman was shot point-blank at the intersection of Cloverfield and Pico, another man while sitting in his SUV in a parking lot.

Loss. Of life, Of meaning. How do we cope? Only last week I was at Santa Monica College with Ebonee, our Office Manager, having a meeting with the fabulous feminist maverick and writer, Melanie Klein, @feminist fatale on twitter.

Melanie and I were discussing this women are so naturally inclined to be lifers, givers of life, the perpetual upbeat, look to-the-light-type of tribe. But lately, with all this "lean in" hysteria, (apparently Cheryl Sandburg's book is the number one gift for female college grads) I wonder: what are we leaning AWAY from? Avoiding... getting rid of to stay positive?

Here at GlobalGirl Media we waited and waited for one of our star reporters, Manto from South Africa to get a passport so she could attend our Chicago World Summit. South African Home Affairs stalled, and she can't come. She is devastated, and so are we. But we are thrilled we are hosting one girl from each of our projects to attend a week-long summit, sponsored by the Harnisch Foundation and the OpEd Project, whose mission it is "to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world. A starting goal is to increase the number of women thought leaders in key commentary forums to a tipping point." I think of Manto, with five siblings she supports because her mother's paltry salary can't feed them all, dreaming of coming to Chicago, then something blocks her that is out of her control. And she feels the loss. We all do.

I try and explain to her that there will be other opportunities, to not quit on us because she is angry (and rightly so). How can I also explain my own devastation that this girl thinks a trip to Chicago is going to solve the horrifying poverty she lives in and/or the stifling bureaucratic government ineptitude and corruption that continues to eclipse her dreams? She was the one, when I visited recently who interviewed her fellow GlobalGirls on Freedom Day, the day they celebrate when Blacks finally got their right to vote in South Africa (you'll be shocked to remember it was only in 1994). She chastised her friends when they all scoffed at trudging to the polls: "Isn't this your own democracy, your own responsibility?" she asked. Here she is, interviewing her peers.

Another loss we are inevitably facing, the loss of "Madiba," or Mandela, who is hospitalized and critically ill. He was the inspiration behind most of my work as a filmmaker. My first film UNCOMMON GROUND was shot in Grahamstown, South Africa the year he was released from prison. I will never forget the swell of my emotions when I watched him take "the long walk" to freedom, surrounded by waves of jubilant South Africans. Such a short few decades ago, there was so much hope. Now, with South Africa on the brink of economic and spiritual collapse-- just read the latest on how it's becoming the rape capital of the world in this Sunday's NY Times--I wonder how to bear the brunt of all this brutality.

Loss, and how we deal with it. Loss of a senior statesman who did more for restoring faith to the world than perhaps any contemporary leader, yet his vision has been so sullied, nearly forgotten. Loss of faith, loss of dreams, loss of momentum, loss of self-respect.

Well, here's my answer: you look for the things that DIDN'T sell in the yard sale. The stuff you collect to give away at Salvation Army after it's over, or maybe not. Maybe you save them. You carry these items gently in your arms back inside your house and place them back on the shelf.

What if we were able to have emotional yard sales, and clear out our brains and hearts from all the disappointments, the let-downs, the overwhelming "what-the-f?" is happening to this world, when a gunman shoots a woman in the street, or hacks a man to death with a cleaver, when a beloved world leader passes away, along with his world vision?

Maybe you cling to this: according to a recent article in the Washington Post, throughout the Muslim world, women are giving birth at a much lower rate than before. Does this mean that, despite the sweeping securalist attacks on women's rights post-Arab Spring, they are actually standing up and claiming their sexual and reproductive rights?

Bono and the fine folks at One recently released information that prove we are actually winning the war on poverty, with the stunning statistic that 7,256 children's lives are being saved daily thanks to programs that are working. In his Ted talk, he encourages us to become FACTIVISTS. I love that.

I'm going to become a FACTIVISTA...facing loss with the facts.

Right after I hit a few yard sales.


Amie Williams is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of GlobalGirl Media is an award winning producer/director specializing in film and video for NGO and international development organizations.


This entry was originally posted at the Global Girl Media blog

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